Louisville Slugger has been grinding the past few years working to become the most dominant fastpitch bat on the market. Whether it is a Xeno or LXT, you can rest assured that you are stepping up to the plate with a top quality weapon.
This year’s line stayed the course with similar graphics from 2015, but, in true Louisville Slugger fashion, they have stepped it up a notch for 2016. Along with adding the “Plus” to the names, the new line has infused an eye-catching splash of optic yellow into both the Xeno Plus and LXT Plus. Louisville Slugger has struck a perfect balance between classic and flash with their aesthetics and I could not be more pleased with how they turned out.
Moving on to what really matters- ultimate performance. Let’s break it down by model.
Xeno Plus: The old faithful. This bat has one of the largest sweet spots in the game with a trademark sound that gets results. Louisville Slugger Performance Plus Composite allows for zero wall friction and maximum pop. The two piece barrel to handle iST technology provides max flex and limits bad vibrations. With sizes ranging from -11 to -8, this is a bat that can be swung throughout an entire career.
LXT Plus: This model has been slowly catching up to its LS counterpart over time and we think this year might be the year that LXT breaks out ahead of the almighty Xeno! This is one sharp looking bat with some of the best graphics and color schemes that we have seen yet. Made with the same Performance Plus Composite Technology as the Xeno, this model is no longer end-loaded like it was in 2013. You will get an evenly balanced bat engineered for maximum performance! The LXT TRU 3 Technology doesn’t allow the handle and barrel to touch allowing for optimum pop and eliminating all vibrations. Another great surprise is the addition of a -11 option! Now the younger, smaller athletes training for big-time performance can join the LXT crowd. Seriously, this bat is legit and that blue will definitely make a statement at the plate!
We are counting down the days until June 1 when these beauties arrive in the store. As always, be sure to stop by Better Softball in Better Baseball and demo one to see the results for yourself!
You’ve seen them in back yards and driveways across America… the pitching target that looks like you’re throwing to a cartoon character. Most of them are equipped with a thin vinyl tarp hanging off a pole with a cut out strike zone and a right-handed batter painted on. A pitching target is a great idea if you want to work on pitching accuracy, consistency, and overall skill, but there’s something else out there that is nine times as durable, nine times as effective, and nine times the fun. It’s called the 9 Hole Pitcher’s Pocket.
Designed and manufactured at Better Baseball in Marietta, GA is what some will say is the greatest pitching training aid ever made. The 9 Hole Pitcher’s Pocket was first created in 2000. Over the last 15 years, 6 prototypes have gotten this product to where it needs to be: a useful, durable, exciting pitching aid that’s fun and effective for both little leaguers and major leaguers. Ever since the Pitcher’s Pocket caught the attention of players, parents, and coaches, it’s proven to be an extremely popular training aid for baseball and softball players worldwide.
So why get a Pitcher’s Pocket when there are cheaper alternatives? A big chunk of that answer is durability. Any time you’re putting a vinyl tarp under the constant stress of baseballs hitting it, it’s going to split at the seams and tear into pieces sooner than you may think. The same goes for mass-produced pitching targets with an aluminum frame and a cheaper quality (polypropylene) netting. The Better Baseball 9 Hole Pitcher’s Pocket comes fully equipped with nine separate #60 grade nylon-netted holes, or pockets, divided by bungee cords that attach to a UV coated vinyl padding-incased galvanized steel frame. The detachable/height-adjustable legs, also made of galvanized steel with rubber end caps, guarantees a sturdy base and easy storage. These pitching targets are built to last a long time. Period.
Another reason to consider the Pitcher’s Pocket over a different training aid is its versatility. The 9 Hole Pitcher’s Pocket is an ideal backstop for live batting practice, a good stand-in first baseman for infield ground ball practice. Catchers can use it too, as a target for their throw-downs at second and third base. The Pitcher's Pocket is a perfectly sized strike zone for wiffle ball, and a means to play competitive games between players of all ages. A fan favorite, “Tic-Tac-Throw,” is a game using the Pitcher’s Pocket as a tic-tac-toe board. Be the first to get three of your pitches in a vertical, horizontal, or diagonal line to win. You can also play a full game in "9 Innings”. Each inning, you get four chances to hit a designated hole. For each hole hit, you earn one run. Start the first inning in the top left hole and work your way down and over to the bottom right hole for the ninth inning. Whoever has the most runs at the end is more accurate and has earned bragging rights… until next time. These are some great games to keep practice fun and engaging.
Want a Pitcher’s Pocket that’s a different size than the 9 Hole? No problem. They also come in a Quad Pocket, 12 hole and 16 hole. Want to attach a larger back-stop behind it to catch the missed pitches? No problem there either. Better Baseball is flexible with the dimensions, number of holes, and any extra attachments you might want added. The Pitcher’s Pocket is available in a wide array of colors including black, red, navy, royal, green, purple, orange, yellow, and many more.
The Better Baseball Pitcher’s Pocket is the best tool possible for assessing and increasing pitchers’ accuracy. It is highly recommended for baseball and softball players (especially pitchers) of all ages who are serious about improving their game.
In the beginning, radar guns had their place… hidden behind a bush off the side of the highway trying to catch the red Mustang doing 95. It wasn’t until the mid-1970’s that radar guns made their way into the ball parks. Ever since, they’ve proven to be popular tools for baseball players, coaches, and scouts. And there’s good reason for it. Radar guns provide the most accurate, unbiased performance feedback for throwing, hitting, and pitching velocities.
Over the years, many radar guns from various manufacturers have strived for one thing: accuracy. A radar gun that doesn’t read the correct speed is like a glove with a hole in it. It’s safe to say that after 40 years of product testing and advanced engineering that the top companies have a firm grip on the accuracy issues. However, from a design standpoint, there is only one radar gun that leaves the others in the dust, and it’s called the Pocket Radar.
Unlike all big and bulky radar guns, the award-winning Pocket Radar is the first radar gun you can actually fit in your pocket. Instead of resembling the shape and grip of a gun, the Pocket Radar is more like a cell phone. It’s very discreet, at a great price, and it’s just as accurate as some of the most expensive radar guns on the market (+/- 1 mph). From a scouting standpoint, it can be problematic to have a standard radar gun pointed at a kid on the mound. If a younger player sees that he’s being clocked, he’s much more likely to try to throw harder than he actually can, which can result in a poor performance or an arm injury. The discretion of the Pocket Radar is a unique and invaluable feature for scouts to stay off the players’ radar… pun intended.
The Pocket Radar comes in two different models: the Classic and the Ball Coach. The Classic model was designed as an all-purpose radar gun for clocking anything in motion. Though it wasn’t designed for reading pitch and swing speeds, this model still does the trick. The Ball Coach is a more improved model designed specifically for clocking speeds in sports. It has a Constant-On mode that allows for hands-free use and a recall memory of 25 speed readings. If you’re looking for a radar gun for the purpose of clocking baseball and softball speeds, the Pocket Radar Ball Coach is the way to go.
Slap-Happy; The Art of Slap Hitting in Fast-Pitch Softball
It is no secret by now that people love the long-ball. The girls with the walk- off homers and high RBI’s are the ones that get most of the glory in the softball world. As impressive as power hitters are; unless you’re launching solo shots on a regular basis, someone has to set the table for your big moments. Those table-setters often come in the form of a slapper. We caught up with Emily Allard, current Chicago Bandit (NPF) and all-time stolen base leader at Northwestern University.
“Not only is your job to get on base and "set the table," but just by being a slapper, you are automatically a threat the moment you step into the box. We have an incredibly unique ability to change the momentum of a game simply by putting the ball in play.”
Allard has enjoyed tremendous success as a slapper both in college and professional play. Her passion for the hitting style has driven the creation of her company, Be The Momentum with Kristin Jensen (formerly Scharkey) another former NU slapper standout. BTM, in Allard’s words “… focuses mainly on clinic instruction and social media support for slappers, but recently has expanded into speed, baserunning and defensive work as well”.
The slap hitter is an incredibly versatile and CRUCIAL hitter in the line-up. Often seen in the 1,2, or 9 spot; the slapper’s job is to get on base and move runners into scoring position. Newbie spectators of the game are often shocked to see that a slapper begins stepping into her route to first before contact is made with the ball. The purpose of the run-through is to get out of the box faster and lessen her time to first base. Allard adds, “As a slapper, your entire existence relies on your ability to get on base in any way possible, most often with short game or challenging the defense to make a play against your speed”.
The art of slapping can come in multiple forms. There is the slap-bunt (or drag-bunt), where the slapper makes her steps and drops a quick bunt down. The purpose of these bunts are for base hits so they are not considered sacrifices. Although, if a slapper gets thrown out on a drag bunt but also moves her runner, she was still productive! The second, and most authentic form of slapping is the infield slap. This can come in multiple forms (soft roller/high bounce), but is hit with the intention of beating the throw to first. This is a slapper’s opportunity to really showcase her speed and one of Allard’s favorite parts of slapping. “Our speed forces defenses to be PERFECT in order to get us out. That's fun“. Placement and bat control are crucial pieces to this technique. The final addition to the slapping repertoire is the power-slap. This technique is pretty self-explanatory. These slaps are base hits that make it through the infield. Power slaps come into play when an RBI is needed or if the outfield is playing you incorrectly. A quick analysis of the defense is all it takes for a slapper to strategize her power slap approach. When the outfield is playing deep, just a strong poke into shallow left-center is all it takes (the infield will typically play tight to defend the tap/drag leaving a gap in shallow OF). If the outfield is playing close (which is very commonly done), then unleash the full power slap and turn the would-be single into a double or triple.
Athletes who are able to master each slapping technique become virtually indefensible. Slappers are the ultimate triple threat at the plate and deserve major props for their production. They are able to speed up game and keep EVERYONE on their toes.
"Setting the table is just as important as clearing the bases." This is the BTM motto and a very true statement! Fortunately, with the accomplishments of big time slappers such as Allard, Caitlin Lowe, and Natasha Watley, the art of slapping has been put on the map and forced people to pay attention. Demarini has caught the slapping bug and created the FIRST and ONLY slapper specific bat. With a longer barrel and weighted even closer to the hands, the CF8 is tailored completely to the unique needs of the slapper. The CF8 Slapper is now available and we have it here at Better Softball. Come on by and try it out at our in-house demo stations!
If there is one thing baseball and softball hitters want more of from their swing, it’s more power. There are tons of training aids out there that aim to increase power, but do they really work? One product that has exploded in popularity in recent years is the Total Control Ball… and it works!
Total Control Balls are designed to strengthen slow and fast twitch muscles as well as develop proper extension through the hitting zone. Hitting these balls can entirely change the way players think about making contact with an incoming pitch. Instead of focusing on making solid contact with the ball, this training aid forces hitters to make solid contact through the ball.
Long gone are the days of hitting basketballs to develop power through the hitting zone. Yes, basketballs work, but only until they pop. Plus, who wants to haul around all of that bulkiness to their practices? Total Control Balls give you that same resistance at contact, but they are roughly the same size as a baseball/softball so you won’t have to worry about getting lazy with your hand eye coordination. And don’t worry about them popping. These things hold up for a long time.
Total Control Balls are great for all ages and you don’t need access to a hitting facility or a baseball/softball field to use them. On average, a solid hit should travel between 10 and 30 feet. The most rewarding feature of this product is that it provides instant feedback. If hit properly through the center of the ball, there’s no other way to describe it other than “it just feels right.” However, if you top the ball or hit underneath it, you’ll find that it will drop to the ground right in front of your feet. That said, it’s a great training tool to encourage line-drive hits as opposed to ground balls and pop flies.
All Total Control Balls are made with a high energy-absorbing PVC/non-phthalate outer material designed to last in hot and cold conditions without bursting. The inner filler material is composed of sand and is what gives it its weight. Let’s break down the specs on the variety of Total Control Ball options.
TCB 74- 2.9” diameter, 14.9 oz. Used for both softball and baseball. Optimum use is for front toss side toss, and tee work.
TCB 82- 3.2” diameter, 14.9 oz. Used for both softball and baseball. Optimum use is for front toss, side toss, and tee work.
TCB ATOMIC- 4.7” diameter, 31.7 oz. Used for both softball and baseball. Optimum use is for side toss and tee work only. Not recommended for players under the age of 12.
YH50- Less than 1 oz. Golf ball sized. Recommended for front toss. Best option for working on hand eye coordination. No sand filler.
YH80- 3.2” diameter, 2.8 oz. Only softball sized wiffle ball designed to last. Replaces plastic wiffle balls that dent, crack, and break. No sand filler.
Pros: Increases power, good for all ages, long lasting durability, won’t damage bats, instant feedback. Improves follow through, and bat control.
Cons: Not good for overhand batting practice; more expensive alternative to batting practice with regular baseballs/softballs
Pros: Great pop. When you get a hold of one, the ball jumps off and it feels awesome. The vibrations are smooth and give great feedback. I felt immediate good vibrations- even the ones hit off the end felt better than I had anticipated. This comes in handy on colder days. I like that it was hot right out of the wrapper with little break-in time necessary. That is always nice to have a bat ready to go and feel confident the first time you swing it. The sound is good and the color scheme is great. I’m usually not a fan of the vibrant colors on bats, but this works and has some serious graphics to go along with it.
Cons: The Worth 2Legit is advertised as a -10 but it is the heaviest -10 I have swung. Power hitters love the weight distribution but slappers & balanced hitters need to steer clear. This bat isn’t conducive for your tools that make you productive. Also- there is a little grip ring on the top of the handle that hinders smooth bunt progression. Durability seems to be the main issue with these bats. Reviews are littered with horror stories of these bats not even lasting a month before cracks or busted end caps. No one wants to pay $300 for a bat that can’t maintain basic structure for a calendar year. Period. If that problem can be fixed, I really think it could compete with the industry leaders.
Overall, the 2Legit is a good bat, but not for everyone. However, no one can make it work if it can’t stay in one piece. Looking forward to structural changes in 2016.
The 2016 Demarini bats are coming in hot this year and they gave us a sneak peak here at Better Baseball and Better Softball. There have been some serious upgrades to the already advanced technology that Demarini is known for. The Paradox + composite barrel is now even more responsive creating a longer sweet spot and optimal performance right out of the wrapper. You won’t have to wait for results on these babies. The new D- Fusion 2.0 handle redirects energy from contact back into the barrel minimizing hand sting and sending back that beautiful vibration you get when you really get a hold of one.
The best part about Demarini bats is that each is designed for a specific type of player. You are always coming into a bat that was literally made for you. The CF8 -8 and CF8 -9 are heavy hitters and designed for maximum pop. The CF8 -10 Insane is made for those athletes who don’t want to compromise explosive power for a lighter swing. You get the best of both worlds with this bat as it swings lighter but distributes the weight out further for maximum pop. An added bonus is that the electric blue color scheme on this bat is phenomenal.
The old faithful -10 balanced model is back and better than ever. Everything that made this bat great just got greater. The stacked barrel construction gives the lightest walls in the game for a balanced powerful swing.
The LIMITED EDITION CF8 -10 HOPE is structurally identical to the CF8 -10 but with a little social agenda behind it. Proceeds from purchases on this model go toward the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. You can crush softballs and cancer at the same time- the ultimate multi-task. Only making 2,000 of these so get yours quick!
The CF8 -11 is the perfect bat for the younger, less developed athletes who are ready to crush. Players are getting serious about their sport much younger these days and need a bat that packs the same punch as the bigger, heavier models. The color scheme showcases the demeanor of the bat. A serious look with intense graphics and only a little pink to keep the flavor. The designers at Demarini understand that you don’t have to drown a bat in pink to catch a girl’s attention. This is the most popular bat of its kind and in my opinion, the best transition bat in the game.
The most exciting addition to the 2016 line in my opinion is the first ever SLAPPER bat! Modeled after the balanced -10, the 2016 CF8 -10 Slapper is designed specifically for the unique needs of this kind of hitter. The longer barrel measures up to 14” for maximum plate coverage and weight is distributed closer to the hands for unbeatable barrel control. Don’t worry power slappers- this bat has the same explosive pop as the other models so you can keep working those gaps. The best part of the bat is that it is just as versatile as the athletes who swing it. It is made so you can utilize all the tools that make you an effective slapper. I am beyond excited for this bat to hit the field this season.
Needless to say, we are pumped for the 2016 Demarini CF8 line. Theres a reason why some of the greatest players in the game are swinging Demarini. Here at Better Baseball and Better Softball, we are one of the few who can provide demos so come by our store and look for us at tourneys to demo one for yourself. Feel free to leave your own reviews of any of these models below!